What an Amazing Project

What an Amazing Project

Now it has already been a week since the last C. P. E. Bach Double concert. We’ve had a bit of time to cool down and return to our everyday lives while taking care of the last administrative bits of the project. What a great experience it has been.

With four concerts we reached around 700 people in four very different locations. From the minuscule church concerts to the big hall of the TivoliVredenburg we got to experience quite the range of performances.

TivoliVredenburg 17/3, photos by Zhou Feng and Vicky Yang

 

Now we are eagerly looking forward for the recording made in the Deutsche Kirche on the 16th. Those who supported our campaign on Voordekunst with 50€ or more will received the mastered digital recording during April.

Deutsche Kirche Den Haag 16/3, photos by Zhou Feng and Vicky Yang

 

Once more, we would like to thank our supporters throughout the project:

And our friends and families for their love and support!

 

As organizers, we owe our great thanks for the amazing Für Kenner und Liebhaber orchestra created for this project. It was a great pleasure working together and we hope to find a continuation for this endeavor in the near future. Also special thanks to our recording engineers Ausma Lāce and Zuzanna Chajewska and our friend Eugenie van der Meulen for helping us with the Dutch translations. And of course to Vicky Yang and Michelle Chow for giving us a hand with all the practicalities during the two weeks.

Oude Kerk Zoetermeer 18/3, photos by Zhou Feng

 

The C. P. E. Bach Double project will go for a short and well-deserved break. The two weeks were the culmination of nine months of hard work from us. We are glad to say it was worth every minute and we will definitely do it again. Stay tuned for our new projects!

 

All the best,

Vera, Valentina and Mao

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About the Program

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Johann Christian and Carl Philipp Emanuel welcome you to our concerts!

 

The Berlin Symphony and the Double Concerto

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, born in 1714 in Weimar, was the second son of Johann Sebastian Bach with Maria Barbara, his first wife. He received his musical training from his father, who gave him keyboard and organ lessons, and from the age of 15 he took part in Sebastian Bach’s musical performances. After studying law in Leipzig and Frankfurt am Oder, in 1740 Emanuel Bach entered into the service of the Prussian court in Berlin as a court musician, joining an orchestra of some 40 musicians, one of the largest in Germany at that time. One of his duties in the court was to accompany at the keyboard to the king, Frederick II, who was an accomplished flute player. Bach was also actively involved in the city musical life, in a time when the first public concerts were organized in private homes by professional musicians, as well as enthusiasts from the Berliner high society.

During this time he composed his “Berlin” symphonies, eight works for string orchestra that are among the finest examples of the genre from mid-18th-century in North Germany. The one to be heard tonight was written in 1757. Originally intended only for strings, Emanuel Bach added the oboe and horn parts later, after his move to Hamburg in 1768, when larger performance forces became available to him.

The Double Concerto for harpsichord and fortepiano Wq. 47, written in 1788, is perhaps the last piece composed by Emanuel Bach, who died the same year. Very possibly it was a commission by Sara Levy (1761–1854), member of the reputed Jewish family Itzig in Berlin. Her father Daniel Itzig was the banker of the court of Frederick II, and the most privileged and highest-ranking Jew in Prussia. His family was also known in musical circles for having a particular esteem and veneration for the Bachs as early as in the 1770s, especially for Johann Sebastian and Carl Philipp Emanuel, playing and discussing their music in their salon. This is remarkable, considering that after J. S. Bach death in 1750 his music would still circulate in professional circles but almost not at all in private homes.

The reasons for the extraordinary instrumental combination of this Double concerto, the only one of its kind in the whole history of Music, are not known. However, we can deduce them: Sara Levy and her sister Zippora were very well educated musicians and accomplished keyboard players. The combination of the “old-fashioned” harpsichord with the “modern” fortepiano could respond to the very nature of Sara Levy’s conservative and at the same time enlightening way of being. In her salon, not only music was played but also important intellectual figures of the period would meet and discuss. Why not imagining their curiosity on putting these two keyboards together in the same piece, playing as equals and revealing their distinctive and different natures? The concerto encloses a very refined way of composing. Indeed, this music was written for the delight of connoisseurs, not amateurs, and Emanuel Bach could be sure that he could find this audience in Madame Levy’s salon.

Valentina Villaseñor

 

La tempesta

Johann Christian Bach was the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach, born in Leipzig in 1735. Presumably he received most of his musical education from his father. After Johann Sebastian’s death, the youngest Bach moved to Berlin in 1750 where he studied composition with his brother Carl Philipp Emanuel.

In the year 1755 Johann Christian moved to Milan. This time in Italy would direct his interest towards the opera seria, being the only one of his family that wrote in this genre. Bach moved also away from the Protestant music traditions of his family and composed most of his sacred works for the Roman Catholic setting.

Throughout the decade Bach’s reputation as a composer spread though Italy to the Northern Europe. With the help of successful opera commissions from the King’s Theatre Bach moved to London in 1762. There he enjoyed the esteem and acquaintance of musical figures such as Carl Friedrich Abel and Charles Burney. Abel had studied with father Bach in Leipzig and might have known Johann Christian already as a child. From 1764 the younger Bach and Abel worked in collaboration to arrange a series of concerts that had a major impact in the London concert life. The Bach–Abel concerts also served as one of the main forums of presenting Johann Christian’s works in the city.

By the end of the 1760’s, Johann Christian was struggling to maintain his reputation as a fashionable composer in London. None of his works were performed in the King’s Theater until 1778. This might have lead Bach to focus his attention abroad, since his works had already been published in Paris and Amsterdam. He had befriended the Mannheim flautist Johann Baptiste Wendling, and maybe thus was commissioned to write an opera for the court of Elector Carl Theodor in 1772. This contact with the Mannheim orchestra, known throughout Germany for its capable players, presumably also had an effect on Johann Christian’s orchestral writing.

The beginning of the 1770’s was a productive time for Bach. The cantata La tempesta premiered in the London Bach–Abel concerts in 1773. The piece was sung by the Italian soprano Cecilia Grassi that Bach would later marry around 1776. La tempesta is set to the text if the Italian poet Pietro Metastasio (1698–1782). He was the librettist in vogue for opera seria, but had also an impact on galant composers such as Hasse, Gluck, Salieri and Mozart.

Bach would use Metastasio’s poem twice, in an Italian canzonetta (op. 6 no. 2b) and in the cantata heard tonight. The text was seemingly popular as both the Mannheimer Ignaz Holzbauer (1776) and Viennese composer Marianna Martines (1778) would write music for it.

The poem occurs in pastoral setting: the narrator, presumably a shepherd, addresses the shepherdess Nice. From the first verses it is obvious that the characters share a common history. The name “Nice” might be an archaism in old Italian for the “beloved”. A storm breaks out, and the man guides Nice into the safety of a cavern. In the first aria of subtle flattery, the narrator is trying to win the girl over with reverse psychology. The second recitative provides a turn of events and reveals the hidden effectuation of the shepherdess. The concluding aria provides calm inside the storm, perhaps as a symbol soothing emotions after a turmoil.

Vera Plosila

 

The Rehearsal Week

After nine months of planning, applications, bookings and practice, we finally met to play some music! Last week was all about rehearsals with five days of intensive sessions at the DUWO House of Music. In a project such as this it is always surprising how long of a journey can one week be. However, yesterday we were finally content to conclude our rehearsals and run-through of the program. Now we will rest and gather the right kind of focus to perform next week.

Being a small orchestra like ours, provides the possibility to work without a conductor. This gives freedom to all of the ensemble members to participate, but also quite a bit of responsibility in solving the musical problems at hand. The project ensemble came well together and as organizers we are delighted to have such invested players in our project. Thanks to all of our musicians for your hard work this week!

The organization part is also falling into place – finally we need only a few bits and pieces to make the concert arrangements as good as possible. In the blog, we will come back to you once more before the concerts with some interesting details about our repertoire.

Mark your calendars, here we come!

CPE Bach Double

The C. P. E. Bach Double Tour 2017:

C. P. E. Bach – J. C. Bach

Wed 15/3 at 18:30, The Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Studio 1 (Juliana van Stolberglaan 1), FREE ENTRANCE

Thu 16/3 at 20:15, Deutsche Kirche Den Haag (Bleijenburg 3), 18€/9€ (CJP)/5€ (students)

Fri 17/3 at 12:30, Tivoli Vredenburg Utrecht, Grote zaal (Vredenburgkade 11), FREE ENTRANCE

Sat 18/3 at 20:15, Oude Kerk Zoetermeer (Dorpsstraat 59), 18€/9€ (CJP)/5€ (students)

Tickets are sold at the venues one hour before the performance. For reservations email us.

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Mariana Pimenta, soprano

Valentina Villaseñor, harpsichord

Mao Lee, fortepiano

The ensemble Für Kenner und Liebhaber

with Francesco Bergamini as the concertmaster

Crowdfunding Successful!

Good news: we have reached our goal at the Voordekunst crowdfunding campaign. This sum will be used to cover the essential expenses of the C. P. E. Bach Double project.

voordekunst

We would like to send heartfelt thanks for all our friends and patrons! We have received considerable contributions from your friends and family, Fonds 1818 and the Chilean Embassy in the Netherlands. This project would have been very difficult to arrange without your support.

 

Best regards,

Vera, Mao and Vale

What Are We Expressing?

Last week we played at the Rikhardinkatu Library in Helsinki as a duo of flute and clavichord. The program consisted of an early sonata of C. P. E. Bach (Wq. 128) and a later J. P. Kirnberger piece (Sonata G major, 1769), with a solo C. P. E. keyboard fantasia in between (Wq. 117/13). The event was fruitful and inspiring, but not easy at all. The process of shaping and performing the short lunch concert lead us to many questions on what are we actually playing, and most of all performing, in the music.

It was a new experience for the both of us to make chamber music with the clavichord, and the instrument gave us a lot of clues on where could we find the gist of this repertoire. The keyboard’s subtle dynamics matched well with the flute’s, and I felt like it was easy to communicate with the similar ways of instrumental expression. For the audience the instrument combination was probably a new experience as well, and we were quite surprised how much positive feedback we would get. There was a lot of curiosity in the hearts of our listeners towards these lesser-known instruments and pieces.

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In the rehearsals, as well as the concert, I sometimes felt an awkward disconnection from the music. The new combination lead me to think about many technical details, such an intonation or articulation, in the music making. However, I’m not sure at all if this was the best strategy. We would discuss the difficulties with Vale, and came to the conclusion that our “playing well” had much more to do with connecting with the pieces emotionally than the technical solutions we could provide.

This lead me to read a bit about Performance from C. P. E.’s Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments:

What comprises good performance? The ability through singing or playing to make the ear conscious of the true content and affect of a composition. Any passage can be so radically changed by modifying its performance that it will be scarcely recognizable.

Emanuel Bach describes a broad variety of different technical devices, such as fingering, tempo and articulation, in the chapter on performance. Nevertheless, the use of these tools seem to be governed by the “true content and affect” of the piece. Not going too far into concepts and theory, for us this simply meant finding a way to connect with the pieces. We were looking at compositional devices, such as melody, harmony and structure, and trying to decipher what on earth Mr. Bach and Kirnberger were trying to tell us.

Understanding the trail of thought of composers born approximately 300 years ago is not quite that simple. We are seven or eight generations apart, and the view of the world has changed much from the mid-1700s. One revelation for the historically informed performers has been the rhetorical performance, comprehensively described by Judy Tarling in The Weapons of Rhetoric. The tradition of rhetoric starts, quite obviously, from the oratory of the ancient Greece. Classical sources inspired the musical revolution of the Renaissance and had an impact on the periods we now call Baroque and Classical.

In the rhetorical style, devices such as the tonality, tessitura, harmony, rhythm, structure and symmetry, and of course allegory, were composers’ and performers’ ways to convey the message to the listeners. A wide knowledge of mythology and oratory was supposed from the learned among music. These were used to shape the pieces and communicate musical thoughts.

Concerning performance, Tarling introduces a quote of Quintilianus in The Weapons of Rhetoric:

The prime essential for stirring emotions of others is […] first to feel those emotions oneself.

A similar phrase can also be found in C. P. E.’s Essay:

A musician cannot move others unless he too is moved. He must of necessity feel all the affects that he hopes to arouse in his audience, for the revealing of his own humor will stimulate a like humor in the listener. […] Above all, he must discharge this office in a piece which is highly expressive by nature, whether it be by him or someone else. In the latter  case he must make certain that he assumes the emotion which the composer intended in writing it. It is principally in improvisations or fantasias that the keyboardist can best master the feelings of his audience.

Must I say, I really felt this in the clavichord fantasia. The galant style is so much based on affects, and it would seem actually difficult to neglect the composer’s intentions in an affectuous piece such as the Fantasia. It is not to say we would be all about finding out what did C. P. E. exactly mean. However, if we sense something in the music, it also means something.

All these thoughts and books did not lead me to any certain conclusions. However, I feel I’m onto something. As a performer I want to discover meanings and convey them, otherwise the performance would be, well, meaningless. Preparing for the C. P. E. Bach Double project, we will likely face many similar questions with the orchestra: how to approach the music and say something meaningful?

 

Regards,

Vera

The sources for this text were:

Bach, C. P. E. Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. Translated and edited by William J. Mitchell. London: Eulenburg Books (1974, orig. 1753).

Tarling, J. The Weapons of Rhetoric. Hertfordshire: Corda Publications (2005).

Crowdfunding, now and then

We have finally launched our crowdfunding campaign in Voordekunst! The following post is a reflection about it.

 

Being in the situation of having to raise funds for this project through a crowdfunding campaign, we’ve been lately very busy getting in touch with our potential supporters. In this context, I have come read some letters of C. P. E. Bach to his editor Breitkopf, where the composer expresses his concerns about getting subscribers for his works:

I still have little news of my subscribers. I expect to hear any day now. Many places are remote. Please have patience! (4 July 1780)

My subscription appears to be doing better than I thought. I am still awaiting 3 important reports, which may be here in 10 days. (26 August 1785)

 

What was a subscriber and why it was so important for composers to get them? In the 18th and 19th centuries, a subscriber was a potential customer. A composer had to get a certain number of them before publishing a work or organizing a concert, in order to prove it profitable. In order to get them, C. P. E. Bach would write directly to potential subscribers, or put an advertisement in the newspaper like the following:

Hamburg. Our Kapellmeister, Monsieur Bach, has composed several new free fantasias and – spurred by the great encouragement of various music lovers who have heard these masterpieces- has decided to include a pair of them in his fourth collection of Sonatas für Kenner und Liebhaber. […]

Whoever orders 10 copies will receive an 11th without cost, or 5 copies, a half-copy without cost. Collectors will be offered the same bargain […]

 

When we think about it , what a role subscribers and patrons have played in the development of our art! Weren’t it for them, most likely many works of so many composers would have never come to life. Because it is something very human to want a reward for all the effort that takes the creativity process. But also: what is a creation that cannot find its way to the world? What is music without an interested listener, both in the audience and in the performer?

When artist and audience are related in such way, it has an effect on the artistic decisions. I think again on C. P. E. Bach, and on his set of sonatas For Connoisseurs and Admirers. Apart from the fact that such a title would bring more profits to both composer and editor, Emanuel Bach was being aware of the different tastes of the audience, and far from lowering his quality he finds a way to offer a fine example of his art in a manner that is reachable for admirers as well. This is not a compromise: it is communication. And that is what we essentialy do as musicians. We have to move the audience, and in order to do that we have to understand its needs, the mood, the atmosphere of the moment. And play with it.

Doing a crowdfunding campaign has proven to be an enriching challenge for us because to reach our goal we need to attract supporters (our nowadays “subscribers”) and in order to do that we have to apply many skills we use to play music: we have to understand what they are looking for in a concert experience, what concerns them as listeners and human beings, what they might feel.

At the beginning, I thought all of this funding business had little to do with the music-making. Actually, I am starting to believe that it is the opposite: Music is not an isolated phenomenon, we all take part of it – performers when they play, listeners when they appreciate, producers and supporters when they give their opinion and help us give shape to our ideas.

Would you like to be part of this process? Would you like to join our subscribers’ list? Follow our campaign, support us, and share your thoughts with us!

 

Greetings,

Valentina

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Down, Three to Go

Welcome to our project C. P. E. Bach Double!

We started this endeavor already in August 2016 when Mao and Vale had the idea of performing C. P. E. Bach’s Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepiano. Although many of us are still students, we decided to craft a professional project with this concert idea. We wanted to see what it takes to organize an orchestral tour and, most of all, to offer a broad audience the possibility to hear this wonderful music.

Well, little did we know what we were getting ourselves into! Though it has been extremely rewarding, we’ve had to work persistently for six months to reach this point. We’ve spent a good time constructing the program and, with a little bit of luck, hunted down the music from various libraries in the Netherlands and Finland. As for the orchestra, we are thankful to be surrounded by so many capable musicians. The program requires a big crew, but The Hague is a great environment for initiatives like this.

Besides the music, we’ve searched and compared concert and rehearsal locations and finally chosen our venues in The Hague, Utrecht and Zoetermeer. And, of course, we’ve applied for funding from many, many, many sources. Fortunately this has also been worthwhile, since the Fonds 1818 and the Adriana Jacoba Fonds have decided to contribute to our project. One must say that even if the orchestra is full of good intentions, all artistic endeavors do require a bit of money to become reality.

Last but not least, our wonderful film-maker friend Carolina Cortés has helped us to shoot some videos and photos to communicate this project to the world. We hope that these materials help to illustrate our intentions and welcome you to follow our project.

At the moment we are preparing to launch our crowdfunding campaign at the Voordekunst platform. We’re very excited to share our work, and also curious for the all the feedback it might generate. Now our work resumes in marketing the concerts, making posters, preparing the rehearsals, arranging instrumental transports, writing program notes, etc. – the project is well on its way, and we are looking forward to perform the first notes on the 15th of March.

Here on the blog we will keep you posted about our progress, our insights on C. P. E. Bach, orchestral work and all other things we might encounter along the way. You are welcome to follow, share and comment our work!

 

Best regards,

Vera, Vale and Mao